Lee, Phillies finalize $120 million, 5-year deal
Cliff Lee chose comfort and familiarity over more money.
Welcome back to the City of Brotherly Love, Cliff. They already
love you here.
Lee and the Phillies finalized a $120 million, five-year
contract Wednesday that brings the star pitcher back to
”It’s plenty of money,” Lee said. ”When you hit a certain
point, enough’s enough. It’s just a matter of where you’re
comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family’s the most
comfortable, what team gives you the best chance to win. At this
point, it’s about trying to win championships. That’s really the
No. 1 thing for me. I think this team gives me the best chance to
do that. That’s really it.”
Lee spurned more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and
Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies, who traded him away a year
ago after he helped them reach the 2009 World Series.
He could have had $150 million and a spot on the biggest stage
in baseball playing for the most successful team – the Yankees,
winners of 27 World Series.
Instead, Lee chose the red pinstripes over the famous dark blue
ones and left $30 million behind.
”It feels great to land back here in Philadelphia,” Lee said
at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park. ”I never wanted to
leave this place in the first place.”
The deal was reached late Monday night, and Lee arrived in
Philadelphia late Tuesday. He had to flip-flop name plates with
general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. when he sat down in the wrong seat
at his news conference, and soon thereafter took off his dark blue
suit jacket and put on his No. 33 jersey.
The two-time All-Star and 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner helped
the Rangers reach their first World Series this year. He chose to
rejoin the Phillies and combine with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and
Cole Hamels to form a dynamic starting rotation.
”That was the main thing, getting a chance to be part of that
rotation with this team and what they’ve kind of established in the
NL East, being the leader there,” Lee said. It was kind of a
no-brainer.” The 32-year-old Lee will earn a modest $11 million
salary next season. Including an option for 2016, the deal could be
worth $135 million for six seasons.
Lee was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 combined starts last season
between the Seattle Mariners and Texas. He led the Rangers to their
first postseason series victory with a pair of wins against Tampa
Bay in the first round, and pitched a two-hitter against the
Yankees in the ALCS. But Lee lost twice to the San Francisco Giants
in the World Series.
This is the fourth time Lee changes uniforms in the last 17
months. He was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Seattle to
Texas. He finally was able to pick his destination, and the
Phillies were first in his heart all along.
”I never held any grudges for being traded,” Lee said. ”From
the day I got here, I knew it was something special. I didn’t know
I would have an opportunity to come back.”
Lee said the way Yankees fans treated his wife and the wives of
his Rangers teammates during the postseason had no impact on his
decision. He denied reports that someone had spit on or poured a
drink on his wife, Kristen.
”No one came up to my wife and spit on her. Nobody poured
anything on her,” Lee said. ”You go to any stadium, the opposing
team stands and starts cheering, especially in the postseason, fans
are going to say things to them, they’re going to do things, that’s
part of it. That story was way overblown and was false and had zero
to do with the whole thing. Hopefully we can put that behind us
because it was a non-issue.
”There wasn’t anything that scared me away from New York. I
wasn’t scared to play there. It was just I wanted to have all my
options in front of me. Once the Phillies were there, it was
relatively close to everything, it was a no-brainer for me.”
The passionate fans in Philly, known for their sometimes boorish
behavior, left a positive impression on Lee during his brief stint
here in ’09.
”The intensity that you can feel when you get in the game, it
has an elevated feel to it. Compared to everywhere else, it’s
completely different,” Lee said. ”I don’t know what the fans do
to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but
it’s definitely something extra here. They get excited. They are
passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a
TelePrompTer to tell them to get up and cheer.”
A fourth-round selection by the Montreal Expos in the 2000
amateur draft, Lee is 102-61 in his major league career with a 3.85
ERA in 222 games. He’s 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and three complete games
in 10 postseason starts with 80 strikeouts in 76 innings.
The addition of Lee gives Philadelphia a dream rotation. The
Phillies’ top four starters have three Cy Young Awards, 13 All-Star
game appearances, two NLCS MVP awards, one World Series MVP award,
one perfect game and one postseason no-hitter on their resumes.
The Phillies have won four straight NL East titles and reached
the World Series twice in that span, winning it in 2008.
”He was extraordinary for us,” Amaro said. ”We’re happy to
have him back.”